Back in the proverbial olden days (you know, when breeding was about maintaining the quality of the breed and not just about creating the next show winner), we were all carefully taught the use and purpose of each of these three types of breeding. A knowledgeable breeder would come to use all of them, judiciously, as important tools in both developing and furthering his breeding program. Today, I see these terms used not so much in discussion of the planning of establishing and maintaining a family of dogs as they are points of argument and contention. Not surprisingly, the reason for this is a simple lack of understanding.
Linebreeding, or breeding within an established family and particularly with the concentration on a particular individual within that family, is the established safe road to producing consistent quality. Starting out with two linebred dogs from the same family gives you the best opportunity to produce a fairly consistent litter possessing the virtues for which that family is known. Generations of selectively linebred dogs typically result in a family “look” distinguishable by any astute fancier of the breed. That family will come to be known for the particular virtues on which the breeder has been careful to concentrate, as well as the faults he is inclined give lesser priority when making his selections. When you’re first starting out as a breeder, you’ll find your personal vision to align with that of a breeder who has established a family to which your eye is always favorably drawn. It is from that family that you will seek to acquire your initial breeding stock.
Outcrossing, or breeding out of your family line and bringing a new line into your program, is done for very definite reasons. Most often it is used when close linebreeding and inbreeding has been utilized to a point where you’ve well established your prioritized virtues, and have nowhere to go within the family to bring in other qualities you hope to add. Outcrossing is tricky business at best because no matter how well you can research another family line, there will be unknowns popping up that you likely never dreamed of, and quite probably would have preferred to avoid at all cost. Nonetheless, the studious breeder comes to a point where he determines that a judicious outcross is in order, and takes on the task of bringing in the new line. The established way of accomplishing this introduction is to find a family as similar to your own as possible, but with a concentration on a particular trait you wish to bring in to your line. Of course you don’t want to compromise on your preferred virtues and bring in a family known for a fault you’ve worked diligently to eliminate in the process, and thus we have another aspect of the tricky business! Outcrossing has much more to do with selecting families than it has to do with selecting individuals. You may find an individual dog you especially like from a family you typically don’t. Using that dog for your outcross will only result in bringing in everything you dislike in his pedigree. Choosing among individual dogs from a family which you admire for virtues which include those you wish to bring in and faults which you know you can live with is the better course. Faults will also be rated by the experienced breeder as those fairly easy to breed out, and those almost impossible to get away from even many generations down the road. This will also contribute to his selection.
Inbreeding, greatly maligned by the unknowledgeable and even by a few who have managed to gain controlling voices in some registering organizations, is most often defined and utilized as breeding between parent and offspring, or occasionally between half siblings. Full sibling breedings are also considered inbreeding, but are much more rarely done as this is the only breeding in which the entire pedigree is identically repeated. Inbreeding, contrary to popular belief, cannot in any way result in bringing in anything which is not genotypically or phenotypically there to begin with. In other words, inbreeding, while it may well bring a fault, condition, or other negative concern to the fore, does not “cause” these problems. The purpose of inbreeding is simply stated as the determination to solidify virtues. Two closely related individuals both displaying an intense strength of highly sought after virtues are typical candidates for inbreeding. The knowledgeable breeder takes into full consideration the fact that inbreeding intensifies everything, both good and bad. It will also, most likely, bring forth long hidden recessives that he may or may not be aware are present in the background of both individuals. Some of these recessives may well be positive. In the words of one old time breeder, “You never really know what you have until you inbreed it”.
Very often inbreeding is done in the generation following an outcross. When the outcross is successful in bringing in the desired new trait, the outcross pups are bred back to a close family member as a way of “tightening back up” on the established virtues of the family, while introducing the new trait into a tightly bred litter. Inbreeding dogs from outcrossed matings is of course more genetically diverse than inbreeding two tightly bred individuals from the same family, but the defining term is still used nonetheless.
Back to the olden days when I started in dogs, this short definition of the three basic types of breeding was considered “Animal Breeding 101” and fully applicable to establishing and maintaining a family of dogs, cats, rabbits, or what have you. How it came to be fodder for contention I’m not sure, but I must admit, I do have my suspicions… What do YOU think?